Barendo – Contradictions And Disconnections – Album Review
Music, art, poetry, literature, culture, creativity…I mean…the list could go on & on as to what you can expect to find when it comes to Barendo’s debut album Contradictions And Disconnections – that’s just a sample of what you’ll hear – and you gotta love that. I’ve been getting right into lyrics lately…I suppose that’s likely because I’ve just been fortunate enough to have a few more records than normal lately that come with’em…but this is one of the rare times I can recall ever reading the album before I even listened to it. I poked open the lyrics for the opening song “Wake Up” and could already visibly see with my eyes that what I would hear on Contradictions And Disconnections would be far different from music we all tend to experience regularly; you can see the degree of just how much that difference exists right there in the words, which are far from typical, artistic & poetic by design, compelling & unique. Curiously written in the sense that, you can also see from the way that they’re written & laid out that even the flow would likely be different where you’d find vocals in these songs. And what can I say – it’s visual clues like these that quite often reveal just how much an artist puts into their work. I’m excited by everything I’ve seen & read…which I suppose leads right to that important next step – time to push play!
“Wake Up” immediately begins to sound like what the title implies, you feel the music stretching out, expanding, growing…kind of like those first moments where you open your eyes to see a new day. By the time you’re about a minute in and the pace picks up through the arpeggio synth-sounds subtly building more & more throughout the background, you’ll notice the vocals also pick up in their energy to echo that wakening-effect. You know how you feel first thing in the morning; that moment your feet hit the floor, you’re probably still shaking off the effects of an overnight slumber – but in about an hour, or with a shower & a coffee, all of a sudden, you’re wide awake. It’s odd, but that’s kind of the effect this song puts out there as it goes from its sleepy & subtle opening into surging towards its artistic ideas. “Wake Up” blurs that line between sleeping, dreaming, being awake, and being conscious of our experience…that repetition you’ll experience in the chorus is certainly no accident or easy way out when it comes to the writing – Barendo’s making a very specific point there, and a brilliant one at that. I think the hooks are anti-typical, subtle, but effective…I think the vocals come out sounding sweet with melody, and I think immediately you can hear from the questioning nature of the lyrics Barendo’s written that there’s a lot going on here when it comes to the amount of thought being put in to what’s being said. You’ll find that on this record…Barendo’s done a great job of challenging the mind at the same time as surrounding you with music that consistently supports that creatively…”Wake Up” is a great start to an experience in the artistic realm that will go on to expand in multiple directions.
Building around the themes he’s put into the title of the record, “No Signal” further makes a case for cohesion and keeping this record tightly focused on its clever mix of art & genuine perspective. There’s an unfiltered honesty that I genuinely appreciate in the way Barendo writes lyrics…and I also really dig how well paired it is to the experimental sounds you’ll find surrounding the vocals in the atmosphere, which are as endlessly creative as the words are. It’s a great match altogether, and like I said, there’s bold perspective here – Barendo uses remarkable imagery in words to describe this satellite sound he’s after, transmitting frequencies at us and broadcasting messages for us to experience on “No Signal.” Much like within the lyrical references to technology on the opening track “Wake Up” – you can definitely get a sense of where Barendo stands on that subject in the words of “No Signal.” When you factor in the words and the inherently artistic approach he’s taken to the music, it’s probably fairly safe to say he’s not a massive fan of satellites buzzing around our planet and wireless airwaves picking up our every move, yet somehow freezing our humanity in place at the very same time…which is something I think he puts out there fairly clearly over a few of the tunes on Contradictions And Disconnections. It’s not quite as grandiose as anything by Depeche Mode would be…but you can hear that vibe and influence on this particular tune guiding Barendo along. I think a lot of people will appreciate “No Signal” for its poetic words and the rhythm & cadence they have; I also really liked the robotic-effect on the vocals and the perfect mix they came with…the theramin-like sounds that creep into the atmosphere as “No Signal” morphs and transforms in the middle into experimental terrain. I also think that, for a song called “No Signal” and the way these lyrics work, having sounds like the theramin or these bouncing electro-effects in the music pinging between the lefts & rights…I mean…that’s focus & attention to detail at work is what that is – Barendo took a distinct theme and explored it perfectly here.
Smart additions to moments like you’ll find on “Catch The Train” where Barendo will fire-up a sound that seems like a train pulling up to full speed and leaving the station, or later on in “Wrangel” where you’ll practically feel the chill of the wind blowing through your speakers. Thematically, idea-wise – it’s these tiny details that can often make the difference to us as listeners, or act as a final statement somehow that words could not convey…I dig that you’ll find these extra levels within the music & creativity of Barendo. “Catch The Train” has a blissfully fresh & unique hook for its chorus, surrounded by an insatiably cool mix of piano, organ, and bizarreness that really seems to work in the strangest of ways…but like…so addictive upon repeat. Put it to you this way, the uniqueness & textures in the music are outstanding, the vocals have that humble-innocence in the melody of the verse, and “Catch That Train” reveals even more ingenuity through the approach to the chorus. There’s no doubt in my mind that in the grand-scheme of things…the music-world at-large…this is definitely an artistic cut that’s got a more niche audience perhaps, but one that’s terrifically open-minded and creative-types of all kinds would appreciate the effort that goes into making a track like “Catch That Train.” As much as I love the chorus hook on this tune – and believe me, I definitely do – I think Barendo also made a great choice in carrying out so much of this song as an instrumental…the ingredients might be odd ones to many people out there, but to me, the results are the same – it’s so different in so many ways that it pulls us right in.
Ultimately, I’d never want to mislead you all and say that everyone out there is going to ‘get this’ – I can’t even say for sure whether or not even I fully understand all this myself, I’ve just got theories at the end of the day and can tell ya what I hear in the music, between the lines as best I can. But like with all-things-art, there are bound to be moments of wild success & authentic connection to the ideas & sounds of the music, and other moments where things take a decided turn into a concept slightly out of reach – that’s just how these things go. So know what you’re in for…because Barendo is making music for an altogether different purpose than finding a way onto the radio, you feel me? For me, a song like “Paradox” ends up being extremely cool on several levels, but I could totally understand that the masses might get more restless in trying to absorb a song built on art as opposed to flashy hooks and a simple beat. Barendo uses a lot of space-like sounds…and I think that makes the words and imagery being used on a song like “Paradox” fit even more. It’s curious, mysterious, other-worldly…and the lyrics reflect that like light from a galaxy far, far away has finally reached earth to shine on these poetic words. Everything seems to hang right in the air of this tune…I think some of the ways that Barendo exits the vocals and back into the music with extremely clever additions and sounds popping up uniquely throughout the journey really makes this track work an exceptionally powerful & hypnotic magic on ya.
“Stay Today” is without a doubt one of my favorite cuts on the record for several reasons. First being, I think the degree of accessibility comes up here quite a bit…there’s definitely more defined melody on this tune for people to grasp onto from beginning to end, as opposed to the more experimentally-inclined sounds on the four songs prior. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still wildly creative – and Barendo absolutely shines through the piano that’s added into this song, playing with much character and charisma…very ‘in the moment’ style all-around, which again, I think is brilliantly echoed in the themes of the lyrics. And truly, this is what I love about versatility and perspective when it comes to art, coupled with clever writing that could be interpreted in all kinds of ways; I can easily imagine that some people out there will view “Stay Today” as the ultimate tale of heartbreak and the disintegration of a love shared, but that others out there might very well hear this as one of the most beautiful tales of how important every moment we share together can be. You see what I mean? It’s this kind of thought-provoking lyricism and smart writing that gets us thinking about what we’re hearing and digging right into the several layers of art that Barendo has to offer. From what I’m gathering, this story takes you through a tale of love that starts off in the blissful state of newness – and I’m sure millions of you out there will certainly relate to that. What all-too-many of you will also likely relate to, is that breakdown that can occur over time – “Stay Today” will warp forward about seven years in its narrative, likely a reference to what’s commonly known as the ‘seven year itch’ in long term relationship where it becomes make or break for many couples. When Barendo sings “Lovers can finish but love won’t disappear” – those are true words of wisdom to be taken to heart; as difficult & complex as many relationships can be over time – it’s important to never forget that these relationships we find ourselves in were formed on the foundations of love to begin with…and that’s a feeling that will likely continue on and echo through our hearts & minds long after the time we share with our loved ones quite often. “Stay Today” is about recognizing how important that immediate moment in time is…how we want to keep it, preserve it, hold it, and somehow always have it remain a part of ourselves and our memories.
The beat and eerie vibes of “Can’t Go” are likely to be what pull you into this tune. Lyrically, Barendo has gone extremely sparse with just a couple words per line to dissect & try to figure out what this slow-burning electro-intensity is all about…and I’ll admit, that’s much tougher to say on this tune. What I can tell you is this…notice the imagery that is being used, and notice the creepy feeling that “Can’t Go” comes with…while we might never quite know the exact scenario taking place, I can assure you, it’s probably not all sunshine and rainbows happening overhead of Barendo on this song. But for real – this is a fascinating set of sounds & ideas to experience. Just spectacular sound coming at ya from moment one on this tune though…I mean, C’MON people – you gotta love the dedication to clarity and sound that you’ll find on Contradictions And Disconnections and “Can’t Go” is a fantastic example of the production & performance rising to their maximum combined potential. “Can’t Go” is a deadly tune when it comes right down to it…I think the atmosphere of this song is extremely powerful…it moves subtly in some layers of the instrumentation, more quickly in others, and that contrast between energies really takes this tune into a menacing & threatening sound all its own. By comparison to the rest of this record, “Can’t Go” heads more confidently and boldly into the dark than any of the other sounds you’ll find…giving this claustrophobic feeling to its vibe that’s akin to something like watching the last flames of a fire dying out and praying that it’ll keep going because the light keeps you feeling safer. Personally, even though I think it’s a bit harder to grasp onto what the ultimate meanings behind the words of “Can’t Go” might be…I think it’s because it’s written with such short descriptions and an impressive hollowness to the vocal-melody that you feel the sense of intensity and urgency in this tale even more, enveloping you more & more as the song plays on into its biggest moments. Full proof that you don’t always need to understand something inside & out to enjoy it thoroughly…it’s the dangerous vibe in the mood of this song that translates through more than anything else, and it’s amazing to experience…you can feel “Can’t Go” crawl into your psyche & soul…and right underneath your skin in the most haunting of ways that you know you’ll remember.
I can have my moments with experimental sounds & ideas like anyone else would, sometimes they connect, sometimes I hear those moments where I can hear the roaming away from what the people will more readily accept. “Wrangel” is perhaps the best example of what I’m getting at here. I think when you hear the tenderness of the melody that Barendo has written here and the way it’s so well sung…I dunno…call me crazy, but I wanted to stay there this time…frozen in that moment. And really, that’s the first exposure you get to this tune, that sweetness in the melody. Knowing full well by this point on the record that Barendo’s tendency is to find that additional avenue or direction to take with the music, I felt like the lower-end parts of this tune were a tougher fit to absorb this time around in the instrumental sections surrounding the vocals. In tandem with the lyrics however, these moments like around the two-minute mark probably reflect the journey it would take to get to these glacier-filled places he’s describing, so in a way, they make sense thematically in that adventurous-sense that the song comes along with, but yeah, kind of an odd fit too. Moments like how the melody is introduced to us at the beginning of the song through the music come out fantastic…I think a smart call was made as well to keep the rest fairly subtle throughout the verses and let the vocals ring out clearly through this tune. Quite likely the highlight on the record for me when it comes to Barendo’s vocals – I think that more bare-bones approach to the verses really brought the sweetness & tone right to the surface of “Wrangel” – I’m not gonna deny, I wanted more of that in this tune and for it to remain in that innocent & humble melody as much as I could get it…which made it a bit tougher to dig the deeper synth sounds that occasionally wandered through, but not even close to impossible. If this is the way this song comes, if that’s the directions Barendo has chosen – that’s all fine with me as long as I get that tender & sweet melody that comes along with it as far as I’m concerned. It’s a bit uneven perhaps, but I love this tune.
“Switching Sounds” however, by contrast to “Wrangel,” is that example of keeping it all tight together and locked into a vibe perfectly. What’s not to love about this tune? You get exceptional sound selection, an astoundingly clear mix, mysterious melody in the vocals, and a haunting vibe that runs through everything you’ll hear from the music to the lyrics on “Switching Sounds.” It’s like we’ve been taken right into a secret underground laboratory on this tune – I think he’s created an incredible atmosphere that works brilliantly here; it’s the longest cut on the record at nearly eight minutes in total, but the sounds that shift, move, bounce, and mesmerize have a genuinely captivating & hypnotic effect that keeps us completely engaged. I also think that, as far as hooks go, which admittedly aren’t something you’ll find right on the surface of every one of these experimental tunes, like you will in this one; “Switching Sounds” has got an absolutely bulletproof chorus that ups the ante of accessibility…that’s a really well written part. There’s also a smoky-jazz feeling that you’ll get from the avant-garde performance on the keys, working what sounds like a synthetic-saxophone into the mix as the song begins and ends on “Switching Sounds.” Tough call on whether there’s enough of it or too much of it…I think it’s a sound that some people will respond to enthusiastically for its free-spirited vibe, but others might want a tighter control over those particular moments as well. I suppose…well I guess what I suppose would be that if you’ve stuck with Contradictions And Disconnections to this point on the record, you’d readily accept this unique addition to “Switching Sounds” – if you weren’t ready for that at this point, you likely moved on to some of that sweet-sweet Top-40 stuff out there by now.
According to the notes I’ve got here, both “Switching Sounds” and the following song “Dream Reader” are based on Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland…which…from what I’m both reading in the lyrics and hearing in the vibes of these two tunes…I’m thinking I should definitely be checking that out. I don’t know Murakami’s work personally – but in my defense, I hardly know anything at all…I know music, that’s about it, that’s it, that’s all. That being said, I like to read multiple books at the same time and I’ve always kind of had a couple on the go throughout the past decade or so after I got back into it again. What I do like about both tracks is that you can hear that extra inspiration in Barendo when it comes to these tunes based on Murakami’s book. Certainly in “Dream Reader,” you can see & hear the effects its had on the lyricism…it’s got Barendo reaching towards incredible imagery and really making that effort to compete on an artistic level, which again, without having read the book myself, I’d assume is still accomplished here. There’s such uniqueness in the writing…so many words that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in music you listen to and a way of relating them to us that’s just as insightfully different. The vocals come out with a wandering style of melody that’s almost like a slightly-sung reading of a story in a way…there’s so many words & details in the lyrics, that the space is limited to really sing with too much expression involved, but Barendo will flex that muscle a bit more in the chorus than the verse of “Dream Reader,” by holding onto those notes a little longer than the opportunity has afforded earlier. What I like a lot though, is that “Dream Reader” has a sound and style that’s almost like singing to yourself would be, as you walked through the forest alone or to yourself quietly in your room…maybe not even out loud, maybe it’s the melody you hear in your head…it’s got an intimate feeling like that.
Again, note the contrast in the overall idea that flows through “Terribly Good” and how effective it is. Barendo has once more drifted into a more tangible melody for people to follow, but underneath the surface of this tune’s more delicate melody & curious synth-sounds, you’ll find what becomes essentially a complete love-song by the very end. I think it’s a comment on distractions and how that can get in the way of what ‘we’re really longing for’ – which again, is a fairly tight thread that pulls many of these songs together when it comes to the lyrical aspect. But think about it for a moment…look at the lyrics, absorb these words, and see what you think – I think “Terribly Good” is a terrifically smart song that examines how much we might think we’re enjoying ourselves, but with arguably more trivial forms of entertainment than what a really meaningful experience would provide you with. Most notably, revealed in that final line, you reach that conclusion, as Barendo does as well, ultimately expressing that there’s a whole bunch of great things out there, flashy neon lights & spectacular sounds all designed to steal your attention away from what’s most important…it’s insightful & thought-provoking stuff. To me, Barendo is on the right side of this whole argument…life is “Terribly Good” in so many ways and I think this song does an exceptional job of explaining why that is, what it looks like, and what the effect is on us as people that feed on our natural impulses to gravitate to shiny things like a moth would to a flame, but that deep down, we’re all seeking that more authentic connection and meaning to our lives…and to share those moments, whatever they may be, with the people we love most. The recording & effects on the chorus of this cut were perfection – I love the way they sound and the vibe they add to the whole song’s mix of strangeness & beauty into a surreal experience that takes you on an authentic trip.
Ain’t gonna lie to ya, the weirdest addition to this record is at the end with “Death In The Desert.” How did we end up here? What a note to go out on Barendo! I mean…where’s the love? Where’s the hope? Where’s the…yeah, no, I’m sticking with that last point – where is the hope Barendo? “Death In The Desert” is nearly post-apocalyptic in its cryptic lyricism…and bizarre at times for sure. “Kudos for our humpy camels” is probably one of the umm…more unique lines I’ve heard in any song this year…but I’m not crazy right – this song is kind of an odd choice to add to this album, isn’t it? It’s quite possible, that this is the conclusive end to the journey that was started with “Wake Up” at the very beginning since we all first opened our eyes together and started this adventure. I mean…it’s a GRIM conclusion if that’s the case…but again, impressively poetic and insightful to the point where you’ll end up with this weird smile on your face while admiring the writing and trying to navigate its desolate lyrical depictions. Barendo also amps up the role of the guitar on this final track as well in more of a hybrid approach to the sound of the music…vocals are good and the quality of this last song production & performance-wise is still just as well-executed as the rest has been…it’s just such a dramatic turn lyrically from the rest that’s bound to stand out to listeners. Remarkable piano playing from Barendo on “Death In The Desert” as well…for me, that was the most enchanting & enticing part of this tune, though I also think very highly of the solo around the 2:40 mark as well…there’s still more than enough melody here to keep it interesting and perhaps a more noticeably theatrical approach being used here as well. But GRIM Barendo! You’re sending us all out on some pretty harsh realities here…which may/may not be a risk…there’s still beauty in the words and way it was written & played…but…yeah…GRIM final cut!
Contradictions And Disconnections is certainly something to experience…you won’t find much like it out there that I can think of personally…and those are the kind of unique qualities in a project that lead to a strong, dedicated, and supportive fan-base for sure. Barendo’s created a wildly experimental record that’s full of smart concepts, detailed imagery, and a great mix of haunting-meets-beautiful vibes that reveal a curious nature to the songwriting in this project that’s bound to always reach into the beyond to see what sounds it can pull back from the farthest parts of the universe, down here, for us to enjoy.
Have a listen to Contradictions And Disconnections by Barendo through Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1tKboF8XtBI4VBSoTlkgJ8
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